Like a storm in the night, the COVID-19 pandemic came quickly and with a force that left the world scrambling to navigate shelter-at-home restrictions, social distancing measures and the widespread impacts to life as we know it and businesses at every level.
When it comes to mid-size businesses, the effects of this virus are universal (social distancing measures, CDC guidelines, revenue loss) and also unique based on your line of business, the county or state you are part of and your ability to address this kind of disruption and quickly adapt to the new normal.
No one can see the future, but there are markers based on how consumer behavior is changing today. The current economic climate continues to be cloudy with a chance of recession and no one is quite sure what the outcome will be. According to McKinsey, consumer intent to spend across all major categories is currently down.
Now, here’s the good news. McKinsey also found that consumers intend to increase their spending across online shopping platforms and adoption of digital and low-touch activities continue to grow as both companies and consumers innovate to find workarounds under coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions. The adoption of digital technology and solutions by companies and consumers during this time has been incredibly accelerated.
As hard as it is to see the future now, there are clear markers of where we are headed after stay-at-home orders lift and companies around the world get back to business. At Fratzke, we believe the rebound will be digital.
As a mid-size business, there are things that you can be doing now to take advantage of these trends to set your business up for success during and after COVID-19. How you approach decision making during this time will affect your company’s ability to thrive after.
There is a model we like to use that is a decades old military strategy called the OODA Loop. It was the brainchild of John Boyd, a United States Air Force Colonel who served as a fighter pilot during WWII. He later became an instructor and strategist for the Pentagon.
The OODA loop is a strategic model for navigating uncertainty in an ever-shifting environment. In a time of war, the goal is to surprise your opponent and win. In the context of our fight against COVID-19, the goal is to transform your business in the midst of the emerging digital landscape and thrive.
Here is what the OODA Loop stands for:
The OODA loop is a model for decision making that will help you break old patterns of thinking and discover new strategies to help your mid-size business thrive during the new post-pandemic digital-first reality. The key is to make informed decisions and to make them quickly.
When used properly, it can give your business a clear competitive advantage.
Nike, a digital giant in the athletic footwear and apparel industry, is a great example of using the OODA loop to repurpose their factories and product materials during this time.
Observe: Nike’s mission statement is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” When they saw that there was a need for PPE, they identified an opportunity for their Air MI (Air Manufacturing Innovation) division to help.
Orient: After understanding that there was a need that their company could help with, Nike quickly began to orient their experts, engineers, scientists and designers around finding a solution using their existing product materials and factories. They had to discard old ways of thinking to discover new ways to use their materials.
Decide: Nike’s team of experts discovered that their products could be used to create much needed full-face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses that could be provided to local health providers. They decided to use their resources to make them and introduced a nine-step efficient process to do so.
Act: Over the past few months, Nike acted to provided nearly 290,000 pieces of much needed PPE to health systems across the nation. They will also be providing their store employees with the PPE equipment they need after stores reopen in the next few months.
Nike already had a strong digital footprint between their website, e-commerce efforts and Nike-branded apps, which meant they were able to focus their efforts on repurposing their product materials to meet the needs of their communities and consumers directly.
Mid-size businesses that are struggling will need to take this same mindset to pivot their business model. There are a number of businesses who have done so and have been able to launch new ways of connecting to customers online in short periods of time.
For example, one retail chain was able to launch a fully-functioning e-commerce site and the operation to support it in just three months. A rental car company launched a digital campaign that targeted a new customer base in 2-3 days that would normally take three weeks and recovered 90% of its revenue.
It can feel like you are drinking from a firehose right now, and that can feel paralyzing. It’s important to practice the OODA loop and quickly Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.
John Boyd, the inventor of the OODA Loop model was known for winning battles in less than 40-seconds. When many other planes would get stuck in the process of making a decision, John would act. Right now, mid-size businesses should leverage this model to accelerate their digital transformation and meet their customers where they are at online.
Stay safe, healthy and innovative.
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